SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
Kim Daninger, a wellness consultant at Medtronic, practices what she preaches. She bikes, walks, and runs (not only as a means of exercise, but as a stress reliever), she eats (mostly) healthy, and she tries to get enough rest each night.
With a 25-year career in health promotion, it makes sense that she’s also an advocate of the American Heart Association’s Twin Cities Heart Walk, set this year for May 19, 2012. “Healthy employees are more productive, experience less sick time, and typically see fewer health care expenses,” she explains. “This benefits the employee, their family, and the employer. Events like the AHA Heart Walk help people do something good for themselves physically and emotionally—they are giving back to the community. It’s an incredible feeling to see thousands of people participating in the Heart Walk event knowing everyone is there to get some physical exercise and help the AHA in their mission to help others.”
What few people realize when they meet this physically fit and extremely outgoing woman is that she’s a Heart Walk advocate not only because it’s good exercise, but because she was born with a congenital heart defect and can relate to the mission of the association from a personal perspective. She took daily heart medication, couldn’t run and play with the other kids, and celebrated her fifth birthday in the ICU recovering from open-heart surgery. “I don’t remember much,” she says. “But I do remember not being able to have any of my birthday cake!”
Since then, she has had cardiac catheterizations done, but says—other than a heart murmur—her heart is strong and healthy. Experiencing limitations at such a young age gave her a unique appreciation for having a healthy heart and being able to do the activities she wanted to do, when she wanted to do them. Being born with a congenital heart defect eventually influenced her decision to go into the field of health promotion.
In 1997, she merged her passions—Medtronic, exercise, and the American Heart Association—and organized a 40-person Medtronic Heart Walk team. That first year they raised $2,000. Today, Medtronic’s team is one of the largest Heart Walk teams, with hundreds of people walking together to raise over $150,000. Kim is one of the top local volunteers and was inducted into the Heart Walk Hall of Fame in 2011. “It was an honor, although I don’t volunteer for the awards!” she says. “I feel so strongly about the AHA and their efforts in research and education that I’m glad to be able to bring Medtronic and the AHA together and help more people get back to a healthy lifestyle.”